Consultation with the EU Countries
Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 provides the European Commission with implementing powers to adopt or amend specific measures on food contact materials (FCMs) at EU level under a comitology procedure. For most FCM legislation the Regulatory Procedure with Scrutiny (RPS or PRAC) applies, which allows scrutiny from the EU Council and Parliament. The FCM legislation therefore is not yet aligned with the new procedures the Lisbon Treaty sets out. Consequently, as the first formal step to the adoption of draft new or amending legislation, the Commission must consult the draft text with a committee where every EU country is represented. In the context of FCMs, the Commission consults with the toxicological safety section of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SC-PAFF).
Prior to the consultation in the SC-PAFF, the Commission prepares its draft text at a technical level together with national experts on FCMs from the EU countries, in Working Group meetings. The primary role of the Working Group is to give assistance to the Commission and to provide views on the measures that are being developed. Discussions in the Working Group not only concern new or amending legislation, but also matters concerning implementation and harmonised application of legislation, matters arising during enforcement, health issues, and guidance. The Working Group meets approximately five times per year, but consultations can also be done in written form.
Before a draft text is submitted to the SC-PAFF, such measures should not be regarded as Commission proposals. Rather they are a means for the Commission services to gather information on the technical particulars of the subject matter the measure concerns. The Commission may also conduct an impact assessment if the measure is expected to have a significant impact. Before the draft measure is proposed to the SC-PAFF, the Commission will internally scrutinise the measure, for instance regarding its legal feasibility, coherence with other EU legislation, and its political acceptability.
The Commission also consults with the EU countries via the European Reference Laboratory for Food Contact Materials (EURL-FCM). This provides scientific and technical assistance to the EU and the EU countries. It is supported by a network of National Reference Laboratories (NRLs) for whom it organises inter-laboratory comparison (ILC) exercises as well as conducting training courses for the benefit of experts from developing countries.
Before any provisions liable to affect public health are adopted, such as prior to the authorisation of a substance, the Commission is required to consult with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and must act on the basis of its scientific opinions.
Consultation with stakeholders
In parallel with its technical consultations with the EU countries, the Commission also consults with stakeholders on initiatives it is considering, in order to gather further technical information, such as on the impact and feasibility of the initiatives, as well as on practical matters regarding their implementation. For example, consultation takes place on technical matters with European professional associations representing FCM manufacturers, importers and traders of FCMs, users and retailers, and/or their representatives. The members of these associations are often national associations and business operators active in this sector. Such stakeholders contribute practical expertise on the manufacturing, use, composition, and verification of compliance of FCMs in relation to amendments to existing legislation, for example on plastic FCMs. A major objective of such consultations is to ensure that measures required to protect consumer health are implemented in a way that minimises the burden to business operators.
In developing new policy on FCMs, the European Commission also aims to consult with a wide range of other stakeholders, including European consumer associations, other NGO's active at a European level, as well as individual citizens. The Commission is in the process of opening up its stakeholder network and considering ways to improve the consultation process on FCMs even further. The FCM evaluation (see below) will provide a substantial opportunity for all stakeholders to be involved in this process. The Commission hopes to build on this exercise and provide a future stakeholder forum to improve dialogue and exchange of ideas as well as facilitate communication on the progress being made on various FCM initiatives. When an impact assessment takes place, the Commission services strive to consult with all relevant stakeholders, including consumers, NGOs, industry and small and medium enterprises in particular.
As part of the Commission's commitment to better regulation, there are now more opportunities for all stakeholders including citizens and businesses to contribute to the process of developing policy on FCMs, throughout the policy life-cycle including its preparation and subsequent implementation and evaluation. More information on the better regulation initiative can be found in the Better Regulation Guidelines or on the different components of law making and how you can get involved.
Globally, the European Commission also notifies the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on new measures concerning FCMs, either as sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and/or under the agreement on technical barriers to trade (TBT).
How to get involved
If you are interested in becoming one of our regular stakeholders on FCMs, you can contact us by filling out the following FCM stakeholder expression of interest form, stating in it your interest in FCMs in order for us to be able to ensure dialogue and consultations are aimed at the appropriate stakeholders. Before filling out the form, you must be registered in the EU transparency register, a system operated jointly by the European Commission and European Parliament. In this way, the EU decision-making process is as transparent and open as possible to ensure balanced representation and to see clearly what interests are being pursued and by whom. You can read more here.
FCM stakeholder expression of interest form
Relevant documents in relation to ongoing initiatives are available via the document library.
As part of our communication with stakeholders we sometimes participate in conferences organised by third parties. We participate only if we see a clear benefit in engaging with the audience of the conference, and the conference should not be targeted only at a national audience. To request our possible participation, please contact us to request our contribution at the earliest 4 months ahead of the event.